Column: Crime Stoppers allows people to anonymously - and safely - help police solve crimes
They say, “The eyes are the window to the soul.” It is in the eyes, where humans first make contact with each other.
It is hard for law-abiding citizens to understand, but there are areas, even in Ann Arbor, where police officers are seen as intruders and the enemy. At major crime scenes in those areas, the officers canvassing for someone who saw what happened will be met by a sea of angry eyes and the agreed upon statement, “Nobody saw nuthin’!”
In the crowd, however, there will always be at least one person who looks at the police officer with softened eyes, then looks at the ground once the officer tries to establish eye contact. The softer eyes may look up once more to make sure the officer saw them, but they will say nothing. That is the person who saw what happened, but will not say a word with a group around.
Crime Stoppers is a non-profit organization dedicated “to empower people to make their neighborhoods, schools and businesses safer through the anonymous reporting of crime.” The key feature here is complete and total anonymity for the tipster.
Citizens with information about major crimes can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (1-800-773-2587). The calls will be answered in a call center in Canada. The anonymous tipster will speak to an operator on a phone line that has no caller I.D. and is not recorded. The calls taken in Canada are not under United States jurisdiction and therefore phone records from the phone company servicing the call center cannot be obtained by U.S. police departments. Anonymity is what the Crime Stoppers brand is all about and they make sure no one can learn the identity of their tipsters.
Tips can also be made via the Internet by accessing Crime Stoppers at their website: www.1800speakup.org or by texting CSM then your tip to 274637 or CRIMES. Both of these methods are equipped with encryption that makes tracing the web tip or text tip impossible.
Crime Stoppers is the largest crime fighting organization in the world operating in 22 different countries. Crime Stoppers tipsters earn cash rewards of up to $2500 for information leading to arrests for homicide or $1000 for all other crimes. Sometimes Crime Stoppers will award larger rewards when the family or friends of a victim add money to the tip fund for their loved one’s case.
Crime Stoppers works by being a clearing house for tips from anonymous citizens and then sending the tips to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The law enforcement agency then investigates the tip and reports back to Crime Stoppers. If an arrest is made, a search warrant is obtained, a missing person or fugitive is located because of the Crime Stoppers tip a cash reward will be paid to the tipster. The amount of the tip is determined by a “Rewards Court” consisting of board members at Crime Stoppers. Reward amounts are based on a set of standards and the Rewards Court’s judgment. The tipster then calls Crime Stoppers to check the status of their tip using the tip number they were given.
If a reward is authorized the tipster is directed to a bank in their area where an envelope containing cash will be waiting for the tipster. The tipster does not even have to sign for reward money.
Not only do Crime Stoppers provide tips to the police, but it provides other valuable services to local law enforcement. Crime Stoppers will generate wanted posters and door hangers to alert neighbors that a criminal is in the area or the area is experiencing some sort of crime problem that the police need help in solving.
Crime Stoppers solicits police departments to provide information to disseminate to the public about unsolved crimes, crime trends and methods, wanted fugitives and missing persons. This information is then in turn placed on a weekly program showcasing crimes in the area.
This weekly program is played on several local cable channels as well as on the Crime Stoppers website. This program is also shown in all state prisons, many parole offices and county jails where prisoners can watch. Surprisingly a large number of tips are generated from these venues. Fox 2 News on Saturday nights also showcases three Crime Stoppers crimes for the public to view.
Crime Stoppers is a great program and a great way to keep our neighborhoods safe anonymously.
Lock it up, don’t leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your neighbors by calling Crime Stoppers if you have information about a serious crime.